Darkest England/Brighter Britain

  • Robert D. Grant

Abstract

The reshaping of Britain’s colonial landscapes into artful ideals of social harmony was also premised on highly stylised representations of the old country. If nothing else, the literature’s overemphatic references to ‘fertility’, ‘abundance’ and ‘opportunity’, and the wave after wave of statistical evidence offered to prove the ‘natural advantages’ of the particular colony under consideration, inevitably evoked its ‘other’: the pent-up, dark and teeming city. At their most basic, these were ‘scenic’ prospects, views constructed using particular framing devices, pictorial and literary conventions. On another level, however, they were outlooks on a new life, and it is here that they exercised power not only over ‘natural’ landscapes, but also over a set of relations that derived their meaning from the social, economic and cultural concerns of the metropolitan world. They operated as framing devices within which the potentially unruly, even chaotic, aspects of colonial life could be ordered, but the features of the new colonial terrain that resulted (investment of capital, freeholding of land, freedom from the wage-nexus through an ‘independency’) were arguably all features of a contemporary British middle-class existence, and it appears to me to have been, above all, an aspirational world. The images of settlements, gardens, farms, roads and bridges were mobilised to invoke that world in ways that were immediately accessible, that were legible, convincing and, perhaps most tellingly, arousing.

Keywords

Sugar Corn Europe Amid Beach 

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Notes

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© Robert Grant 2005

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  • Robert D. Grant

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